Dealing with the arrest of a loved one is upsetting for most people. It can be even more difficult for parents of minors. In general, parents want to protect their children and keep them safe. Parents may experience a whirlwind of emotion.
Navigating the system
Understanding the process may help manage parents’ expectations and alleviate some concerns. In New Jersey, there are three basic steps of the juvenile justice system.
Step 1: Arrest
If there is probable cause that a juvenile committed a crime, a law enforcement officer will arrest the minor. Additionally, the child’s school can report delinquent behavior or illegal activity to law enforcement directly.
Step 2: Juvenile/Family Crisis Intervention Units (JFCIUs) or Court Proceedings
Instead of a court proceeding, the JFCIUs will intervene for family-related problems, such as the juvenile ran away, truancy matters or other family conflicts. The goal is to provide short-term intervention and provide the family with resources to fix the issue.
For slightly more serious delinquency allegations, a court-appointed group of community members will review the charges and determine the consequences. For serious criminal offenses, juveniles may be subject to criminal court proceedings. They can be tried as a juvenile or an adult, depending on the crime.
Step 3: Disposition Hearing/Sentencing
The punishment will be determined. Juveniles often serve probation for minor crimes. They can also face temporary detention, community service, jail time or a combination of consequences.
Parents must realize that legal proceedings of any kind are serious and can have life-long repercussions. Investing in an experienced attorney to represent your child’s case may be a wise choice to ensure the protection of your child’s rights and freedom.